Tinctures and extracts are one of the many ways to capture and use your herbal bounty, whether fresh from your garden, bumper crop at the grocery store or dried. I love lavender and grow a ton of it on our parkway for the bees, smell and looks. It is so darn easy: low water, drought tolerant. While my honeybees pay it little attention, the bumbles flock to it. Learn more about that observation here.
Tincture versus Extract: In the wise words of Mountain Rose Blog – All tinctures are extracts but not all extracts are tinctures! Both have the same goal of preserving the essential oil responsible for its pleasant smell and reported wellness benefits. CHoice of solvent is the key difference.
Solvent: Tinctures use alcohol as the solvent, whereas extracts may use alcohol, water, vinegar, glycerin or other solvents (aka menstruum).Glycerin is often used for skin or other external personal care products but has a shorter shelf life.
There are quite a few other preparations possible: teas, infusion, poultice, elixir, tonic, ointment, salve …… some great how to articles exist out there. When I try them out I will post – never fear.
- Lavender flowers, dried or fresh
- Alcohol, either vodka 80 or 100 proof, or other woodgrain (see below for more info)
- Clean glass jar with tight fitting lids
- Filter material, such as cheesecloth, muslin, unbleached coffee filters or a fine sieve
- Blank labels
Chop! Chop up clean herbs to start to release essential oils and increase surface area.
- For fresh herbs fill the jar 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full, no need to pack it in. If using roots of some plant, fill the jar with less, 1/4 to 1/2.
- For dried herbs, fill jar 1/2 to 3/4 full.
Pour! Pour alcohol over the herbs in the jar. The goal is to cover the contents completely. For roots, consider that dried version will increase in size as they reconstitute.
- Your jar will be full, but not jammed packed. The Herbs should move around when gently agitated or swirled.
- Macerate! Rest! Steep! Leave it alone! Let the jar sit for 2-6 weeks, agitating it most days of the week, if able. Do some research on length of time to let various herbs sit in alcohol, particular if pursuing medicinal applications. You might start extracting other components that are less desirable.
- Strain! Pour your tincture jar contents though the filter. Muslin works great as do coffee filters. Squeeze the filter to get as much liquid out as possible. The liquid will be colored, no longer clear. Alternatively, you could grind up the contents a bit more and then strain and filter.
- Store! Store the strained tincture in amber glass to protect from light or in a cool, dark place if in clear glass. Alcohol tinctures will last for nearly every, glycerin may last only 2-3 years. Use your brain though and if it looks funky don’t use… be sure to label what it is and when prepared. Don’t rely on your nose.
- Approach tincture making like canning in terms of cleanliness of workspace, jars and hands.
- A little dab will do you and more than that might hurt you
- Air can introduce problems, hence why the herb is submerged.
- Try using different herbs or plants. I made a lemon peel extract with great success.
Alcohol proof does not equal percentage
- 80-90 proof vodka equals 40-50% alcohol, this is a pretty standard and works well for most
- You might need to get fancier and mix vodka and 190 proof grain alcohol in equal parts for higher moisture items like lemon balm and berries and roots, research this
- 190 proof grain alcohol, the big guns, would be for more tricky or highly bound essential oils. It will not taste good at all. Probably overkill for many tinkering with tinctures…
- Final alcohol percent will be less as there is water in the plant that will be drawn out.
Use! This lavender tincture can be used for a variety of indications: I like mine added to baths, as a light perfume (dab on the wrists), to refresh sachets (see tutorial link below) and as a liqueur/elixir. I will also use in cooking in the future, probably instead of the tea I used in the preserved blueberries. You can add tinctures to a range of body care products (soap, lotion, massage oil, toner) or you might take them medicinally. I am right now really all about the foofy and libation uses, versus medicinal. Do your research on QUALITY sites and let your health care providers know what you are up to if treating or preventing maladies with herbals.
Here is my tutorial for simple lavender sachets – another simple way to use dried lavender.
- http://theherbarium.wordpress.com/2009/02/01/tinctures-fluid-extracts/ very technical reference, extensive discussion of weights, measures and methods